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Hotel Life

VIETNAM | Saturday, 14 January 2006 | Views [1915]

The most traumatic part of any trip, I think, is finding a hotel. Hue greeted me from my overnight train ride with a downpour.  Even with my rainjacket, I was soaked to the skin by the time I found a cab.  In the meantime, young men paid to take advantage of my sorry state urged, more like insisted, that I visit their hotel to "take a look."  "Free to look.  If you don't like, you find some other place."  The situation usually plays out like this: "Free to look" means that the hotel will show you the nicest room in the place and when you ask how much, they say, "Oh, this room $25 a night," knowing from your beat up clothes and overstuffed backpack that $25 would break your budget.  As you turn to leave, pack growing heavier by the minute, suddenly they remember that they have a cheaper room in the back!  "Just opened up this morning!" and you're led to a dingy back room with no windows that smells of bug spray.  "This one $10" they say, and you  trudge back into the rain once again, all the while fighting the urge to hit something.

And so, I finally fought my way through the hotel hawkers, made my way to the tourist district along the
Perfume River
and, with damp Lonely Planet in hand, went searching for the hotel I had carefully selected from the book.  I walked that stretch of road for 20 mintues in the pouring rain, hotel owners badgering me from all sides, and never found that hotel.  I would ask someone if they knew the place and I'd always get a "No, you don't want that hotel - it has rats," or "No, that hotel went out of business last year," or "No that hotel is full - come see mine!  I give you good price."  And on and on. (I found out later while exploring that it was tucked back into a nice quiet little alley conveniently located next to a good restaurant and a cheap internet cafe.)

Finally, I gave up and walked into a place that seemed nice.  The receptionist showed me a room for $8, and by that time, my pack having miraculously gained around 60 pounds, I would have taken the box in the alley for $20.

Maybe I should have taken the box.

The first problem I encountered in my state of soaked-ness was getting everything dry again.  I didn't quite understand the Vietnamese concept of summer and winter quite yet.  In
Hue
at least (other areas of the country are vastly different), summer means hot hot and humid and winter - which it very much is - means rainy with frigid humidity that nothing can remedy.  You can't turn the air-conditioner on to get rid of the humidity or else you'll freeze, and so my clothes were still wet when I scrambled out of there three days later.

Problem #2 was discovered as I started to dump my exhausted body into bed that night only to find hair on the pillow and sheets.  Maybe clean sheets for every new customer isn't a standard in Asia, I don't know; but nevertheless, I dug out the sleeping bag that night.

The Lonely Planet guidebook had warned me that this particular hotel tended to be noisy since it was on a main road, but I figured all of Vietnam is noisy, so I simply armed myself with quality earplugs.  Even so, problem #3 reared its ugly head at about midnight on the second night, at which time there arose such a clatter that I raced from my bed to see what was the matter.  I couldn't see what or who it was, but it sounded like someone was beating on the drainpipes with sticks trying to make music, "music" that was so loud I would hear it through the earplugs!  After a couple hours of that nonsense, I was ready to go down and take away the sticks, but just for good measure I tried another peek outside.  And what do you supposed to my eyes did appear?  Unfortunately, not a jolly man with a little round belly, but the constant companion to the central coast of Vietnam: rain.  Yes, the rain falling from the hotel roof had turned the tin roofs below into a marching band drumline and my room was the stadium. 

The next day, I went an an "early-riser" tour to the DMZ, and after the sleepless night before, I was exhausted at the end of the day, and as I dragged my weary body up the stairs to my room, problem #4 was waiting at my door - literally.  So tired and so unsurprised was I at seeing a rat the size of my shoe at my door that we simply blinked at each other a moment, and, I assume, becoming unnerved at my lack of response to his presence, he skittered out the door and off the balcony.

Now, the night before I had considered changing hotels because of the noise but decided against it since I only had one more night left.  But rats are inexcusable, so as calm as can be, but as quickly as possible, I stuffed everything into my pack except one sock, a box of Kleenes and a precious plastic baggie (the latter two were desperately missed later) and ran out of there, leaving the receptionist standing looking hurt, but probably just confused. 

Epilogue:
As I rushed out of there, the receptionist, in her confused state, only charged me for two nights instead of three, and even though I told them I was catching a night train to Saigon immediately, they somehow tracked me down at my new hotel and had me pay up for the third night which she had forgotten.  Instead of arguing, I paid the $8, and this time they left me standing in the lobby looking confused.

Tags: home away from home, i should have known better!, vietnam

 

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